Welcome to Bodmin Keep War Stories!

A podcast series where we tell the intriguing and surprising stories behind the collection at Bodmin Keep.

Find out how ordinary soldiers played their part in some of the biggest conflicts of the last century, from the impact of war on everyday life, to tales of extreme courage and daring!

Listen to our latest podcast

From refugees fleeing the ravages of war-torn Europe in World War I to modern asylum seekers, Cornwall has welcomed people seeking sanctuary across the generations. 

Cornwall’s proximity to the French coast made the county a natural destination for those seeking sanctuary over 100 years ago. In this episode we hear how Cornish folk shouldered the burden of the First World War effort by welcoming refugees from Belgium, and later Jewish people escaping persecution. 

In the Second World War, hundreds of children made Cornwall their temporary home as young evacuees in World War II. Many of them spent their formative years in villages by the sea before having to return to their home cities which had been ravaged by bombing raids. 

And today, local people still welcome those fleeing war and persecution and support them in securing a safe and healthy life for themselves and their families.  

Sanctuary in Cornwall now live!

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Music, Military & Morale

Podcast Episode 1

Hear about the essential role military musicians played in wartime, from issuing vital commands on the battlefield to keeping up morale among troops.

There’s a cheeky version of a favourite wartime song, and the story of how a legendary American entertainer came to Bodmin to entertain the troops in 1943.

Music, Military & Morale
Berlin_Wall_ Photograph_GDR Museum

The Berlin Wall

Podcast Episode 2

2019 was the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many fragments of it were taken by souvenir hunters. One of the biggest pieces in Britain ended up at Bodmin Keep. In this episode we’ll hear from soldiers and civilians who were there when the wall went up at the height of the Cold War, and when it came down again amid huge celebrations in 1989.

The Berlin Wall
Bob Hope Audience in the rain at Bodmin barracks, D Day, WW2

Cornwall's D-Day

Podcast Episode 3

Cornwall’s maritime might and strategic coastal location made it far from remote when it came to D-Day operations. Find out how the county experienced an invasion of its own – from thousands of American GIs. Hear which celebrities visited soldiers at Bodmin Keep during training for the Normandy Landings. And discover how a sleepy Cornish village was transformed forever after being chosen as an embarkation point by troops leaving Britain to liberate France from the Nazis.

Cornwall's D-Day
The History of the Barracks - an historic image of the exterior of The Keep

School for Spies

Podcast Episode 4

Bodmin was alive with Russians at the height of the Cold War when the town became home to a school for spies! Hundreds of Britain’s brightest young men came to learn Russian in order to translate Soviet radio transmissions for GCHQ. Playwrights Alan Bennett, Michael Frayn and Dennis Potter were among those who passed through as part of their National Service. Flamboyant Russian lecturers staged avant garde plays in the local church and one even married a local girl.  

School for Spies

Gay & in Uniform

Podcast Episode 5

It’s now more than 20 years since the ban on gay people serving in the armed forces was lifted. But what was it like for gay and lesbian people serving before that? We hear about the lives of gay men in the two world wars, how the army was an escape from society’s heterosexual norms for lesbians and what museums are doing today to make their collections more representative of everyone who has served their country – gay or straight. And a gay soldier tells us how joining the army gave him the strength to finally become his real self.

Gay & in Uniform
History of Bodmin keep Podcast

History of Bodmin Keep

Podcast Episode 6

Two world wars, intelligence training, an influx of Americans and a mishap with a hungry dog and a crocodile handbag – all part of the rich history of Bodmin Keep.

When the building was first erected in 1859 it was a blueprint for a modern and healthy training centre. Since then, thousands of troops have come here to ready themselves for duty, before being dispatched to all corners of the globe. It’s been a depot, a training centre, a spy school and a home for 100s of GI’s.

In this episode, we’ll find out why Winston Churchill raised eyebrows when he paid a visit to Bodmin Keep.. listen to find out more… 

History of Bodmin Keep

Mental Health and the Military

Podcast Episode 7

War leaves mental scars as well as physical ones and for many veterans, the battle does not always end when the fighting stops. In this episode we chart the changing attitudes to mental health conditions caused by the impact of conflict; from Florence Nightingale’s pioneering support for traumatised soldiers in the Crimean War to present day veterans who, even now, can take years to reach out for help for themselves and their families. And we’ll hear about a powerful film – Combat Stress 100 – in which former servicemen and women speak out for the first time about their crippling mental health conditions.

Mental Health and the Military
black soldiers, segregated at Bodmin Keep

Soldiers of Colour

Podcast Episode 8

The huge contribution of servicemen and women of colour through the centuries and across the world bolstered British forces in nearly every conflict, and in supporting the building of the British Empire. But so often that skill and loyalty has been overlooked and at times even resented.

In this episode military historian Barry Renfrew explains just how vital the contribution of soldiers of colour has been throughout British military history. Author Kate Werran tells the incredible story of a World War II gun battle between black and white soldiers in Launceston. Bodmin Keep’s trainee curator Isabella Hogan tells the real story of the infamous Siege of Lucknow in India in 1857 and Black Voices Cornwall co-founder Marcus Alleyne reveals what it was like to be a black serviceman in the Royal Navy in more recent times.

Soldiers of Colour